Monday, June 17, 2024

SAFF Championship: Maldives overcome Bhutan to make winning start, Lebanon beat Bangladesh

Maldives registered a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Bhutan in their SAFF Championship 2023 campaign opener at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, here on Thursday.

The island nation took an early lead in the game when Hamza Mohamed converted from the spot in the 6th minute. The Maldives No. 10 was brought down inside the box by Tenzin Dorji and he made no mistake in slotting the ball home for 1-0.

Maldives kept pushing for another goal, showing some good passages of play. In the 17th minute, Ibrahim Wahid Hassan went for glory from the left flank, but his fierce shot went agonisingly wide off the post.

Bhutan charged forward with vigour to pull back on level terms, but couldn’t find the end product. In the 23rd minute, the team missed a golden opportunity to equalise when Karma Shedrup Tshering’s powerful strike from outside the box was spilled by goalkeeper Hussain Shareef. However, Yeshi Dorji, who was the first to react, couldn’t beat the Maldives custodian from close range.

Bhutan almost found the much-needed equaliser in the 35th minute. Tshelthrim Namgyel found the back of the net following a blocked shot, but the referee blew his whistle for an offside. Eventually, the two sides headed into the break with the scoreline reading 1-0.

Bhutan kept pushing for an equaliser following the break and produced waves of attacks on the Maldives goal. But in the end, nothing helped as the team rued their missed chances.

In the dying minutes of the game, Bhutan once again came close to scoring. This time, it was Nima Wangdi whose deflected shot came off the woodwork.

Ultimately, at the stroke of the 90th minute, substitute Naiz Hassan made it 2-0 for Maldives. The forward marched forward on the counter and managed to beat the goalkeeper from close range to put the game to bed.

Before the full-time whistle, Maldives were reduced to 10 men when the referee gave marching orders to Hassan Raif Ahmed. The substitute received a second yellow for a deliberate foul.

Nevertheless, the team held on to the scoreline to grab a crucial win in their first game of the tournament. Next up in Group B, Maldives face Bangladesh, while Bhutan take on Lebanon on Sunday.

Lebanon vs Bangladesh

Lebanon earned full points in their opening Group B match of the SAFF Championship when they defeated former champions Bangladesh 2-0 at the Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.

Two late goals from Hassan Maatouk and Khalil Bader were enough to break Bangladesh’s resistance.

Lebanon will face Bhutan and Bangladesh will play against the Maldives on June 25.



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